Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Charly Bliss (Photo: Shervin Lainez)

The album to listen to

Charly Bliss, Guppy

Guppy, the debut album by Charly Bliss, is a nearly flawless exemplar of its kind, a record that captures a certain sound, mood, and energy with the passion and exuberance of a teen as-yet-uncrushed by life. Put succinctly, Charly Bliss makes guitar pop-rock of the fuzzed-out kind embodied by ’90s acts like the Breeders, Weezer, and others of their ilk. But rather than sounding like some Johnny-come-lately imitation, the band does its musical forbears one better: It has crafted a record so engaging and resonant that it feels more like a contemporary bedfellow of those acts than a latter-day application of the same tactics. It’s a joyous outburst of brash and irascible energy, rising up with a wellspring of enthusiasm and a howl of 4/4 intensity that never forgets to be hooky or hummable. Whatever fizzy elixir of chemistry the band distilled in order to produce these 10 tracks of jangling chords and harmonies, it’s a combination that succeeds where so many others fail.”
Read our full review here.


The TV show to watch

Silicon Valley

Kumail Nanjiani, Thomas Middleditch, Martin Starr, and Zach Woods star in Silicon Valley (Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO)

“We’ve watched Richard (Thomas Middleditch) repeatedly rally the Pied Piper team and, apropos of the name, lead them to ruin. The scrappy start-up has defied probability time and again even as they’ve adhered to the Peter principle: two steps forward, followed by a couple of lateral moves that skirt the edge of the precipice without ever falling over. So have the intermittent successes and inevitable defeats, which still have few real lasting consequences, worn thin? The first three episodes of the season quickly raise those concerns and allay them; they head off any fears that this show is moving from satire into pure farce. Silicon Valley still offers plenty of what viewers tune in for—takedowns of corporate raiders and VC bros, breakdown opportunities for Richard, and Gilfoyle and Dinesh’s (Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani, respectively) programmer bromance for the ages.”
Read the rest of our review here.

The movie to watch

The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Mäki

“Sports biopics tend to emphasize the most dramatic bullet points of their subjects’ lives and careers: the grudge matches, the impossible comebacks, anything that earns its own bolded Wikipedia section. What they don’t tend to focus too heavily on, for perhaps obvious reasons, are the moments between the milestones—not the big wins, but the small stuff, like attending a wedding or trying to jump-start a car or sitting down for an obligatory dinner with a sponsor. The rich, unexpected charm of Finnish award-winner The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Mäki is the way it builds a sports biopic out of nothing but mundane foibles. Granted, the movie’s namesake, a now-retired Finnish boxer, hasn’t lived a roller-coaster ride of a life, at least compared to a world-famous champ like Muhammad Ali. But given that the titular pugilist spends most of this minor-key dramatization with his gloves off, it’s clear that upstart director Juho Kuosmanen has deliberately ducked and weaved around the genre’s obsession with glory, to the point where it’d be hard to even identify his movie as a boxing drama. It’s more of a gently comic character sketch in boxing trunks.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The podcast to listen to


Outside, “XX Factor: A Woman’s Place Is On Top

“The nature mag’s podcast arm is embarking on a new series highlighting the achievements of female outdoors adventurers. Its second installment focuses on the 1978 women’s expedition to the top of the world’s 10th-tallest mountain, Annapurna, led by Arlene Blum, a biophysical chemist who declined admission to Harvard when she learned women weren’t allowed on the school climbing club. By 1978, Blum had a string of climbing-related firsts under her belt and caught the attention of a documentary crew, which accompanied her team on their history-making Annapurna attempt and provides period audio clips for the podcast alongside present-day commentary from Blum herself. The sum of the vignettes reveals the climb—paid for by selling T-shirts reading ‘A Woman’s Place Is On Top’—as an extension of the accelerating women’s rights movement, a march to break the 8,000-meter ceiling. And while two members of Blum’s team were able to reach the summit, subsequent tragedies on the expedition cast a pall over its legacy.”
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.


The game to play

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

“The Dragon’s Trap remake is incredible work of respect and care. The team at developer DotEmu sifted through the original game’s code to figure how everything worked: What are the equations that dictate Wonder Boy’s momentum? When do slain enemies drop items? How is the damage from the lizard man’s fireball calculated? After reverse engineering all that data, they tweaked things to make the new version feel modern and natural. That balance between honoring, and even reveling in, the past while recognizing the benefits of the present make this one of the better retro remakes to ever come along.”
Read more of our thoughts on Dragon’s Trap here.


The book to read


Donia Bijan, The Last Days Of Café Leila

“Chef Donia Bijan previously explored the relationship between food and home in her memoir Maman’s Homesick Pie. For her debut novel, The Last Days Of Café Leila, Bijan remains in that familiar territory, whipping up a new batch of stories of escape and self-discovery. There’s a whole host of characters and protagonists, and Café Leila shifts among their perspectives throughout. But the book regularly circles back to Noor, a heartbroken Persian-American woman with something of an identity crisis. While in the middle of a divorce from her cheating husband, Noor packs up their teenage daughter Lily for a trip back to Tehran, the first she’s made in 30 years. Despite all its savory allusions, Café Leila’s main course is its diasporic tale, which shows multiple generations uprooted.”
Read the rest of our review here.


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